Lululemon on mission as company equips Canadian athletes

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TORONTO, Oct.26 (Reuters) – Lululemon (LULU.O) staged a dazzling unveiling of the team kit that Canadian Olympians will wear at the Beijing Winter Games on Tuesday, while citing a mission statement that appears to be in contradiction with the alleged treatment of minorities by China.

After Roots (ROOT.TO) and the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC.TO), Lululemon is the latest iconic Canadian brand to outfit Olympic athletes nationwide, but does so as human rights activists and consumer groups increase pressure on sponsors and governments. to boycott the Beijing Games from February 4 to 20.

Chinese authorities have been accused of facilitating forced labor by detaining around one million Uyghurs and members of other mainly Muslim minorities in camps since 2016.

China denies any wrongdoing, saying it has set up vocational training centers to fight extremism.

Before the athletes strut the podium in their opening and closing ceremonies and podium outfits at a posh hotel in downtown Toronto, Lululemon CEO Calvin McDonald laid out the vision and Olympic sportswear company’s mission to “bring about positive social change as a global brand”.

How could this be accomplished at an Olympics where activists accused anyone connected with the Beijing Games of being complicit in “genocide,” McDonald pointed to the work being done in China by “community educators and ambassadors” of the company.

“We have a wonderful business in China and wonderful relationships through our stores with our educators and community ambassadors,” McDonald told Reuters.

A pair of shoes are pictured on a mannequin dressed in a lululemon Athletica Team Canada uniform for the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on October 26, 2021. REUTERS / Carlos Osorio

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“We are thrilled with this partnership and to be working with Canadian athletes to celebrate them on the world stage.

“We share combined visions that, through sport, create and drive change.

“We share a lot of values ​​around courage and inclusion and what sport can do.”

While Lululemon’s first foray into the Olympics can be tough, the road ahead presents plenty of opportunities.

The multi-year partnership with the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and the Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) spans four Olympic Games, with Beijing followed by the Paris 2024 Summer Games, the Milan-Cortina Winter Olympic Games in 2026 and ending with the 2028 Summer Games in Los Angeles. .

COC CEO David Shoemaker told Reuters: “We spent a lot of time when we knew our predecessor’s tenure was coming to an end thinking about the range of businesses that might be right for us and one landed. at the top of our list and it was Lululemon.

“Clearly a company that shared a vision of what we could do together to transform the country and the world through the power of sport.

“For us, this is a clear new chapter not only with a Canadian success story, but with one of the best sportswear companies in the world.”

Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Ken Ferris

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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